“Comfort Food (definition) noun - food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal.” – Merriam Webster
Many of us have happy memories of our parents making homey, simple and yet flavorful dishes. My dad (yes, both my mom and dad were solid cooks) used to make a killer version of Pasta e Fagioli with white cannellini beans and pancetta to enjoy on cold winter evenings when we lived in New York. To this day, I have a soft spot for slow simmered soups and stews made with legumes – dishes like Cassoulet from Provence, for example, or a recent Spanish favorite, Pochas a La Riojana.
I have enjoyed this wonderful dish on a few occasions in Rioja. The Pochas are young white beans that the locals shell and cook when they’re ripe, rather than dehydrating them. They are delicate, fresh and tender when prepared this way. Unfortunately, they are next to impossible to find here in the US. However, you can substitute fresh cannellini beans if you can find them or dried if you can’t. The dried beans will need to be soaked overnight.
Here’s an edited recipe for Pochas a La Riojana from Bodegas Muga and The Wine Society using dried beans.
“This hearty casserole of pochas with pork and piquant chorizo can be mild or really spicy depending on your choice of chorizo and smoked paprika, both of which are sold in sweet or hot strengths.
1 pound dried beans
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large leeks, white part only, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 links chorizo sausage, sliced
3-4 meaty pork spare ribs
A tablespoon of good-quality olive oil
A small onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika (sweet or hot, as you prefer)
Salt and pepper to taste
Soak the beans overnight, drain and rinse. Put the ribs, chorizo, chopped onion, garlic and leeks in a casserole, along with some water. Boil for 10-15 minutes. Add the beans, along with enough cold water to cover, and bring back to the boil. Bubble rapidly for at 10-15 minutes, removing any scum from the surface with a ladle. Turn the heat down to the simmer, cover and cook for 80-90 minutes until the beans are tender.
To complete the dish, heat the olive oil in a pan, add the sliced onion and fry until translucent. Sprinkle on the smoked paprika and fry for a few seconds more. Add this to the casserole. Serves 4."
Personally, I would pair this dish with a dry Rosado like Quo Garnacha Rosé Campo de Borja. La Mano Tinto Mencia Roble, a spicy, medium-bodied red from Bierzo, will also do nicely.
Jim Greeley, Wine Supervisor, SW Florida
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